6. Briefs are mostly a waste of time, how they're usually done.
While I agree that case briefs can be a waste of time, I think it is useful to be able to summarize a case into bullet points, or a sentence or two. Otherwise, how will you remember the case and refer to it on an exam. Some of my professors did not care whether or not cases were referred to on an exam so long as black letter law was applied. However, some professors required thoughtful examination of cases and direct fact-to-fact comparisons on exams to get above a B. So, I don't know of any way to summarize the relevant facts and holdings of cases than to brief them. Albeit, my case briefs were always very short.
Quite right. This depends, of course, on the subject. Civ Pro or Constitutional Law will involve cases more extensively than other subjects, and of course some professors want more cases while others want a case name + an analysis that shows you know why that case name should be there.
One key is to think of case "briefs" in the same way that attorneys do. These are not 1-2 page monstrosities that law students are told to do, but are *very* short statements of the legal rule of the case. Wentworth Miller, of LEEWS, has written about the "2-4 line case brief," which he graciously allowed me to include in Law School: Getting In....
Actually I think it *is* good at the beginning of first year to spend 1-2 hours on a case brief . . . to understand how pointless it is. From there, move to a statement of the legal rule, asking "why is this case here?" If you can answer that, you'll understand why it's important and be able to use that to practice your exams (which you should do much, much more extensively than briefing).
On the topic of case briefs, I find them extremely tedious. I'm taking constitutional law and criminal law in the political science undergrad department and I loathe case briefs. My Con. law professor is the best professor I've ever had at my university, but the way he requires us to make briefs is extremely tedious. It takes me an hour for a single case. He says it was the way he did it at Vanderbilt in the 60's, but I really can't see it working for me. My criminal law professor was just recently in law school and he has a much more streamlined way to make briefs, but I still find it a bit tedious. Oh, and don't get me started on appellate briefs. I've done one and it made me want to scream. I love the law, but I hate briefing cases.